ABA Survey:
Lawyers Are Mobile and in the Cloud More Than Ever

Arrow_northeastThe verdict is in: lawyers are using cloud and mobile computing in record numbers. At least, those were the results of the American Bar Association’s latest Legal Technology Survey Report, a multi-volume report which is issued annually and focuses on technology trends in the legal industry.

Many times over the past year, I’ve discussed lawyers’ increasing use of mobile and cloud computing and this year’s survey results are just one more indication that 2013 is the year that the legal profession finally begins to utilize these technologies in full force.

First, there are the results regarding mobile computing. As Jeff Richardson reported at iPhone JD, the number of lawyers using mobile devices to manage their law practices increased again this year, with smartphones leading the way. Nearly 91% of lawyers now use smartphones in their law practices, up from 89% last year. Lawyers’ smartphone of choice is the iPhone, with 62% of those lawyers surveyed reporting that they used an iPhone, up from 44% last year. Androids were the second most popular smartphone, with 22% of respondents using an Android phone. Not surprisingly, Blackberry use continued to decline, with only 6% of lawyers using a BlackBerry and only 1% using Windows Mobile.

Tablet use also increased at an impressive rate, with nearly half of all lawyers reporting the use of tablets in their law practices. According to the survey results, 48% of lawyers now use tablets, up from 33% in 2012. And, like smartphones, lawyers prefer Apple’s device over all others. In fact, 91% of lawyers who use tablets chose the iPad and of the 9% who don’t use the iPad, more than half use an Android device.

In other words, the survey results indicate that lawyers are going mobile and they’re doing so at an incredibly fast rate. This becomes especially apparent when you consider that the iPhone was first released in 2007 and the iPad was first released in 2010. So, in just 3 years’ time, nearly 50% of lawyers now use tablets in their law practice, an impressive statistic considering that lawyers are sometimes perceived to be a bit slow to adapt to new technologies.

Next up, cloud computing. Just as lawyers’ use of mobile apps is increasing, so too is the profession’s use of cloud computing increasing. In 2011, I predicted that lawyers’ use of cloud computing platforms would increase slowly until mid-2013, at which point the rate would begin to quickly increase. The survey results have proven my prediction to be correct, with lawyers’ use of cloud computing increasing by a full third since last year. In 2011, only 16% of lawyers reported using cloud computing in their law practices, with that number increasing only slightly in 2012 to 21%. But this year, at 31%–nearly one third of all lawyers now use cloud computing software to manage their law firms.

So, why are lawyers using cloud computing to run their law practices? Because cloud computing is affordable, accessible from anywhere, and is convenient. When lawyers were asked which cloud computing features were most beneficial to the law practices, convenient access lead the way, with 74% of respondents citing this as the most valuable feature offered by cloud computing services. The next most popular feature was 24/7 access, according to 63% of lawyers. Affordability was cited as an important by 56%, data backup was cited by 49%, ease of use and reduced learning time cited by 44%, and reduced need for IT staff came in last, with 41% citing that benefit.

And, last but not least, lawyers use cloud computing to manage all aspects of their law practices, but when it comes to cloud-based law practice management systems, lawyers have strong preferences regarding the most important features. So, 46% indicated that time and billing functions were the most important, with case and matter management and document coming in tied at second place, with 44% of respondents citing each function as important. Other important law practice management functions cited by responding attorneys included contact management (39%), calendaring (37.4%), conflict checking (34.4%), expense management (27.2%), accounting (26.7%), client intake (24.6%), document assembly (23.6%), court docketing (19%), and financial reporting (19%), among others.

So, according to this year’s report, the verdict is in: lawyers are using mobile devices and cloud computing tools to manage their law firms more than ever before. 2013 has shown a huge uptick in lawyers’ use of these technologies–no doubt next year’s survey will show more of the same. Lawyers and technology are strangers no more and it will be exciting to see how lawyers continue to use technology to better manage their practices and improve client representation in 2014.

–Nicole Black

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